Web Summit Chief steps down over Israel remarks
Cosgrave’s move was meant to insulate Web Summit, which runs events across the globe.
LONDON: The chief executive of Web Summit, one of Europe’s biggest tech conferences, stepped down on Saturday after major sponsors and speakers withdrew from the event, set for next month, following backlash over his public criticism of Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks.
Paddy Cosgrave, the Irish entrepreneur who founded Web Summit in 2009, announced his resignation after companies including Google, Intel, Meta, Siemens and the payments giant Stripe — many of whom were set to have executives speak at the event — said they were no longer coming.
“Unfortunately, my personal comments have become a distraction from the event, and our team, our sponsors, our start-ups and the people who attend,” he said in a statement. “I sincerely apologize again for any hurt I have caused.”
A spokeswoman for Web Summit said that the group aimed to appoint a new chief executive as soon as possible. The event, which is scheduled to start on Nov. 13, is still set to go forward.
Cosgrave’s move was meant to insulate Web Summit, which runs events across the globe. Its flagship conference, which is now held in Lisbon, drew about 70,000 attendees last year and speakers that included both senior tech executives and celebrities.
Since the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, business leaders have taken aim at institutions that they said have been associated with unfair criticisms of Israel, or worse. In the United States, wealthy donors have threatened to withhold donations to schools like the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.
Web Summit’s troubles began just over a week after Cosgrave criticized Western leaders and governments for supporting Israel as it responded to the Hamas raid. “War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are,” he wrote on X. His comments drew rebukes from prominent technology executives, particularly those from Israel.